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Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores Sarasota Travel Review

Dining Florida Food and Wine Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores Places to Stay Restaurants Road Trip Sarasota SRQ Cottages Travel Travel & Tourism


There’s a little bit of everything here. And that’s why we like it!

By Carol A. Wilcox   Photos by Paul Wilcox

Sarasota is paradise! That’s how my 91 year old Dad has described it for nearly 25 years. For at least the last 15 years, Paul and I have traveled to Sarasota, Florida to visit Dad, other family members and friends staying mostly in the suburban or tourist areas. But over the years, we have come to know some of the more interesting communities that tourists may stumble upon, but the locals know well and keep secret if they can. One of our favorite areas to explore is Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores.

This is an eclectic, artistic and cultural community with The Ringling Art Museum as one of the jewels of the area. The museum is the former mansion of John Ringling, one of the five Ringling Brothers who operated the circus known as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Nearby, there are art galleries, shops, restaurants, and the Marietta Museum of Whimsy, along with a quirky mix of buildings and architecture. 


We discovered this community a few years back while taking an afternoon drive, and have returned on each subsequent visit to explore more. Maybe we were drawn to it because it was a little quirky, just like us! Whatever the reason for the draw, when we planned our next Sarasota trip we decided it might be fun to rent a cottage in Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores. It was there that we found ourselves experiencing a little bit of that quirky, vintage “old Florida” style that still exists in pockets of these delightful communities.

Tucked away between Sarasota Bay and west of the North Tamiami Trail, this collective area of small neighborhoods with an eclectic mix of vintage, historic and modern homes comprise this bay front area known as Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores. It’s close to many downtown restaurants, cafes and shops. It’s also just a short drive to the beaches. Originally settled by Native American Indians, traces of their existence can still be found.

We connected with Darla O’Brien and Herb Lustig on a vacation home rental website and found their location to be perfect for a week of catching up with family and friends.There are two cottages on Herb and Darla’s property (they live next door in a beautifully renovated home). Both cottages have been completely restored inside and out with many interesting and whimsical details, very much in keeping with the flavor of the neighborhood.


When we entered our one bedroom cottage, known as “Pinkman,” we could instantly see how charming and welcoming it was! There were freshly cut garden flowers on the kitchen table along with a welcome note and some snacks. Because there was a tropical storm brewing, Herb and Darla left us a couple of umbrellas and plastic shoe covers so our shoes wouldn’t get soggy if it rained.

The kitchen was well equipped with updated appliances, granite counter tops and plenty of space to prepare any type of meal. The living room and kitchen areas were comfortable and decorated with colorful fabrics and paint. The living room chairs were soft and inviting. There is a lot of original artwork decorating the cottage walls, some abstract, some whimsical and all delightful to look at! The landscaping has been lovingly restored and maintained with walking paths, and little spaces tucked here and there with interesting tropical plants, décor and benches to sit and enjoy the surrounding beauty with a cup of coffee in the morning.


Driving down their narrow, tropical tree-lined street, we saw majestic gated waterfront properties, some modest mid-century homes and some places that needed a little TLC. Around the corner from the cottages and down the road, about a 200 yard walk or a quick bicycle ride, is a view of Sarasota Bay with park benches to sit and enjoy gorgeous sunsets and sip a glass of wine.

Within a five minute drive, you can be at some of downtown Sarasota’s best and less-touristy restaurants including Mattison’s City Grille where you can sit on the patio and enjoy live music, Brick’s Smoked Meats for authentic Texas style barbeque, Libby’s Café and Bar, an upscale neighborhood restaurant, and Louie’s Modern for contemporary culinary fare. Public parking garages in these areas make it simple to park and take in the charm of the area and enjoy a good meal or drink. And if you’re in the mood for a beach fix, in less than 15 minutes you can be basking in the sun on the world famous Siesta Key Beach


We were glad that we had chosen to stay in this area. For us, it was a chance to experience living in a diverse and quiet “old Florida” neighborhood devoid of high rise resorts, hotels, traffic and tourists and abundant with charm, understated sophistication and a healthy dose of originality. Paradise indeed!


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